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Building resilient communities

With millions of Australians suddenly experiencing social isolation and businesses closing overnight, resilience has never been more important. A myriad of approaches that support resilience need to be initiated as the scale of the impact of COVID-19 continues to grow.

Building resilience takes many forms. It could be the simple act of a regular call from a caring contact, or through innovative and effective national policies which enhance the delivery of essential services to support people’s overall wellbeing.

That’s why the BHP Foundation is backing two new initiatives to enable socially isolated people to sustain social connections, and to stimulate bold thinking around a national response to the mental health impacts of COVID-19.

The initiatives, driven by Australian Red Cross and the University of Sydney’s Matilda Centre, tackle the pandemic from two sides: supporting individual and community recovery on the ground; and bringing together experts to focus on the big ideas for addressing long-term mental health.

‘The uncertainty around the end date of the pandemic is difficult for people. Our way of life has been forced to rapidly change,’ says Red Cross Chief Executive Judy Slatyer.

‘The extended support of the BHP Foundation gives Red Cross the technological capability and infrastructure to manage its COVID-19 program consistently across the country, employ the resources and experts needed, and build the capacity of volunteers.’

Red Cross already supports a range of people impacted by COVID-19. These include older Australians living alone, people experiencing homelessness and unemployment, new mothers, groups with already limited social connection and those impacted by the recent bushfires and droughts.

There is also increasing demand from workers who have been recently stood down from employment, workers on the frontline who are socially isolating from family and friends, and those who are becoming socially isolated due to movement restrictions or economic disruption.

‘This support means we can meet people’s immediate needs, as well as build resilience to help individuals and communities better cope with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, other pandemics and future emergencies,’ says Ms Slatyer.  

The University of Sydney’s Matilda Centre brings together world-leading researchers, clinicians, people with lived experience and community to share skills, data and new technologies and trial innovative programs to prevent and treat mental and substance use disorders.

The COVID-19 Mental Health Response Independent Think Tank will explore new directions and models around mental health.

Director of the Matilda Centre Professor Maree Teesson says the pervasive effects of COVID-19 may detrimentally affect mental health now and in the future.

‘The impacts of COVID-19 on unemployment, social dislocation and mental health highlight the urgent need for the mental health sector and governments to put in place an ongoing national response to the pandemic,’ she says.

For James Ensor, Chief Executive of the BHP Foundation, it’s about supporting long-term community resilience and recovery.  

‘The sign of a civilized society is how we treat our most vulnerable,’ says James.

‘With the full and lasting impact of this global pandemic still to be realised, we have to invest in programs that will deliver innovative solutions now and in the future,’ says James.

‘This means supporting the experts to solve the big problems and helping build community resilience through the very important work being done on the ground in our local communities.’

Find out more about the BHP Foundation’s support for programs in Australia.  

Click here to register for Australian Red Cross’s COVID Connect or call 1800 733 276 during business hours.